On Thursday, students gathered at the Sundial to redesign Columbia apparel and hold a rally in support of Palestine.
At 1 pm on Thursday, students coordinated a walkout in support of Gazan universities. Students gathered at the Sundial to redesign Columbia merchandise and rally “protesting Columbia’s complicity in the erasure of Palestinians,” according to an Instagram post by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD). During this event, students decorated posters and organizers gave speeches in preparation for a protest at 3 pm in Washington Square Park.
In anticipation of the protest, campus access was limited to CUID holders at the College Walk, Wien, Earl Hall, and John Jay Gates. Public Safety and NYPD personnel were present on campus, setting up barricades around campus gates and Low Steps in advance.
Over the course of the afternoon, individuals gathered with markers and cardboard signs to construct posters, some reading, “Bombing kids isn’t self-defense,” “Queer Jews 4 Palestine,” “Black lives 4 Palestine,” “From PR [Puerto Rico] To Palestine stop the US war machine,” “Genocide Joe has got to go,” and “Columbia divest now.” Students brought Columbia apparel and used markers to edit the lettering so that merchandise read phrases like “[Columbia] is complicit,” “Fuck Columbia,” and “Fuck Barnard.” Next to the Sundial lay a large canvas banner that read “CU Students 4 Palestine.” Throughout the protest, demonstrators chanted the following phrases: “Globalize the intifada,” “Resistance is justified, when people are occupied,” “Israel is a racist state,” “Israel is a fascist state,” “From the river to the sea,” and “Palestine is our demand, no peace on stolen land.”
As participants worked, they engaged in discussions regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict and settler colonialism. Students, faculty, and community members talked, playing music on drums, tambourines, and paper plate noisemakers meant to resemble watermelons. Press-associated individuals circulated with cameras, reportedly filming a documentary. Meanwhile, some students stood upon the Sundial holding a Palestinian flag.
Bwog spoke with an anonymous source at the event about the significance of art as a form of resistance.They described this to be the first public art build in the series of pro-Palestinian protests on campus. “I think for a long time visual arts has been (sic) a form of protest,” they said. “Some of my favorite quotes… say art by existing is a form of protest because it makes no sense in a capitalist society. It’s not productive. It’s speaking out against the norm and going against the grain of what everything in society is telling you to do.”
The participant continued, “The thing we wanted to center on with the Columbia merch redesign is the idea that we are proud to be students… But we are not proud to be a part of this University.” They highlighted the importance of community building, even as “that community is doing everything possible to tear you apart and to shut you down,” they claimed. “I think exploring different ways of resistance is the way you don’t burn out and have a fulfilling activist career,” the source remarked, highlighting the artistic aspect of the event. With that regard, the source discussed their connection to a sign they bring to every protest they attend. “It’s a reminder of what that sign and I have been through, but also the fact that I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep going.”
An individual notified Bwog about the presence of organizers with bright orange tape around their arms, signifying personnel trained in de-escalation and security tactics, including some with medical knowledge. “We understand that we keep us safe, no one else does,” the demonstrator declared. “If you need something, you find someone who is clearly labeled.”
At 1:20 pm, a speaker spoke on the purpose of the “art build,” describing it as a means of protesting the University by making signs and altering merchandise. Afterwards, protesters began chanting and playing tambourines and drums, making way for the next speaker. Columbia Classics Professor Joseph Howley then talked about Gazan universities and Columbia’s response to pro-Palestinian protests, claiming his colleagues have “already made it clear that they think Jews like [him] are the real anti-semites because [they’ve] defended [protesters’] right[s] to talk about the conflict.” Howley continued, describing the University’s response as an “[attempt] to make it as illegal to talk about Palestine on an American campus as it is in Israel… to make it as unsafe for Palestinians in this country as it is for Palestinians [in Palestine.]”
Howley also discussed communication between the administration and faculty, stating, “[The University] told us they do care what you think… They’re scared of how young activists like you are speaking the truth of Israeli apartheid and genocide.” He further claimed that on-campus protests could diminish American support for Israel. “You know what?” he ended, “They should be scared of that. Because you do have that power.”
At around 2:15 pm, the demonstrators prepared to travel to a 3 pm protest in Washington Square Park. After an organizer spoke about safety, a group of around 30 students left for the next protest, taking their signs with them.
All photos via Bwog Staff.